Block Island, Rhode Island Larchmont
150 PERISH IN SEA DISASTER
Either Drown or Freeze to Death After Collision
CRASH COMES IN THE DARK
Survivor, Insane from Cold, Commits Suicide
48 BODIES ARE RECOVERED
Believed Passengers and Crew of Steam
Larchmont, Struck by Schooner Harry
Knowlton, Numbered 200, of Which Only 19 Have
Been Found Alive - Accident Off Rhode Island
Coast - Thinly Clad, Panic-stricken Passengers
Rush to Decks - Many of Those Who Take to
Lifeboats Are Killed by Zero Weather.
Vessels Blame One Another - Survivors Unable
to Tell Detailed Stories - Passenger List in the
Pursers' Safe in the Sunken Ship
LARCHMONT DISASTER TOTALS
Estimated dead -------- 150
Saved -------- 19
Bodies recovered -------- 48
Known missing -------- 51
Crew missing -------- 11
Block Island, R. I., Feb 12 - About 150 persons
went to their death in Block Island
Sound last night as a result of a collision
between the three-masted schooner Harry
Knowlton and the Joy Line steamer
Larchmont, inbound from Providence to New
It is estimated that, including the crew, there
were nearly 200 persons on board the
steamer when she sailed from Providence. Of
these only nineteen appear to have survived the
disaster, ten members of the crew and nine
passengers. Forty-eight bodies have been
recovered. Those who survived the accident
Awakened from slumbers in their staterooms, the
unfortunate passengers were at the mercy of the
fates. Many, it is believed, went down with the
ship. Others, temporarily thankful that they had
escaped drowning, prayed that they might be
relieved of the terrible pain caused by their
frozen bodies, and one man, a passenger whose
name could not be learned, plunged a knife into
his throat, and ended his suffering.
Survivors' Plight Pitiable.
The few who survived were in a pitable [sic]
condition. In almost every case their arms and
legs hung helplessly as they were lifted out of
the boats in which they reached shore.
During the day forty-eight bodies came ashore,
either in boats or thrown up by the sea.
Only six of the forty-eight bodies were
An investigation of the wreck will be instituted
by the United Etates [sic] steamboat
inspectors of the Providence district.
Passenger List in Safe.
Owing to the condition of the survivors of the
tragedy [sic], it was impossible to get their
estimate of the loss of life.
The steamship officials estimate that about 150
passengers and a crew of 50 were on
board the steamer when she left Providence last
night. Taking the estimated figures of the
steamship officials as a basis, there are still
138 persons to be accounted for.
The only positive evidence of the steamer's
victims is lying at the bottom of Block Island
Sound. The list of passengers and crew, handed
to the purser just before the steamer left
Providence, was locked in a safe, and it was not
The cause of the accident has not been
satisfactorily explained. It occurred just off
Watch Hill about 11 o'clock last night, when the
three-masted schooner Harry Knowlton,
bound from South Amboy for Boston with a cargo
of coal, crashed into the steamer's port side
amidships. Capt. George
McVey, of the Larchmont,
declares that the Knowlton suddenly
swerved from her course, luffed up into the
wind, and crashed into his vessel.
of the Knowlton, asserts that the steamer
did not give his vessel sufficient sea room and
that the collision occurred before he could atke
[sic] his schooner out of the path of the
Steamer Sank Quickly.
The steamer, with a huge hole torn in her side,
was so seriously damaged that no attempt was
make to run for shore, and she sank to the
bottom in less than half an hour. The
Knowlton, after she had backed away from the
wreck, began to fill rapidly, but here crew
manned the pumps and kept her afloat until she
reached a point off Quenochontaug [sic], where
they put out in the lifeboat and rowed ashore.
There were no fatalities on the schooner, but
the men suffered from the extreme cold.
There was no comparison, however, between their
experiences and those of the
passengers and crew of the steamer. A majority
of those on the Larchmont had retired for
the night, and when the collision occurred there
were few on board, with the exception of the
crew, who were propared for the weather which
prevailed. They hurried from the warm staterooms
to the deck of the steamer and into a zero
Cold Killed Thinly Clad.
Literally chilled to the bone, many rushed
headlong below to secure more clothing, while
[sic] others, barefooted, bare-headed, and clad
only in night gowns, stood on the decks, fearing
that to go below would mean certain death. It
now appears that the loss of life was heaviest
among those who had retired for the night.
Despite the efforts which were make to leave no
one on board, it would appear to be impossible
that of the 200 souls on board none were left
behind. Those who had no opportunity to clothe
themselves succumbed long before they reached
shore, and even those who were fortunate enough
to be fully dressed endured suffering and frost
bites of a serious nature.
Was Sidewheel Steamer.
The Larchmont, a sidewheel steamer, which
was only put into the Joy Line service during
the present season, left her dock in Providence
last night with a heavy cargo of freight and a
passenger list estimated at from 150 to 200. A
strong northwest wind was blowing as the steamer
plowed her way down through the eastern passage
of Narragansett Bay, but the full effect of the
gale which was blowing out in the sound was not
felt until the Larchmont rounded Point
Judith. Then the sidewheeler pointed her nose
into the very heart of the gale and continued
down through Block Island Sound without any
unusual incident until she was well abeam of
Watch Hill and within five or six miles of
Capt. George McVey,
who had remained in the
pilot house until the vessel had been
straightened out on her course, was preparing to
retire after a turn around his ship, when he was
startled by several blasts of the steamer's
whistle. He rushed into the pilot house, where
the pilot and quartermaster pointed out a three-masted
schooner sailing eastward before a strong wind.
Schooner Headed Straight:
The schooner, which proved to be the Harry
Knowlton, coal laden, from South Amboy
for Boston, had been bowling along on her course
when she seemed to suddenly luff up and head
straight for the steamer. Again several blasts
were sounded on the steamer's whistle, the pilot
and quartermaster at the same moment whirling
the wheel hard-a-port in a mad endeavor to avoid
But as the Larchmont was slowly veering
around in response to her helm, the schooner
came on with a speed that almost seemed to equal
the gale that had been pushing her toward
Boston, Even before another warning signal could
be sounded on the steamer's whistle, the
schooner crashed into the port side of the
Larchmont, and the impact of the big vessel
was so terriffic [sic] that the big clumsy bow
of the sailing craft forced its way more than
half the breadth of the Larchmont. When
the force of the impact had been spent, the
schooner temporarily remained fast in the
steamer's side, holding in check for a moment
the in-rushing water.
Water Rushes in Hole.
But the pounding sea soon separated the vessels,
and as they backed away the water
rushed into the gaping hole in the steamer with
a velocity that could only mean the swift doom
of the passenger vessel.
There were no water-tight compartments to be
closed, and therefore the flood could not be
confined to the damaged section, and it poured
in over the cargo and down into the hold. As the
water struck the boiler room clouds of steam
arose and panic-stricken passengers, all of whom
had been thrown from their bunks when the
collision occcurred [sic], were at first under
the impression that a fire had broken out on
Unfortunately, the point of collision was in
that part of the steamer where was located the
signaling apparatus connecting the engineroom
with the pilothouse.
Capt. McVey, standing in the
pilothouse could not communicate with his
subordinate officers below decks, and therefore
was unable to determine the extent of the
damage. The quartermaster was hurried below to
make an investigation.
Passengers Rush to Decks.
The passengers meanwhile rushed to the decks.
Few of them had waited to clothe
themselves. Their fear was so great that the
first penetrating blast of the zero temperature
was disregarded, but the suffering from the cold
and water soon became so intense that personal
was forgotten in a genral [sic] effort to keep
the blood in circulation. Those who had not
stopped to clothe themselves now found it
impossible to return below and do so.
Their rooms were flooded soon after they had
been deserted, and the steamer, floundering
around in the high seas that are feared by all
Sound navigators, was sinking with a repidity
that sent terror to the hearts of the officers
and crew. Those men were prompt in answering
call to quarters. While some of the seamen held
back the frantic passengers by brute strength,
others were proparing to lower the lifeboats and
rafts. There was no time to think of the comfort
of any one. Even before the boats were cut away,
knew that the list of victims would be greater
than those who survived.
There was a physical impossibility for any but
the most hardened to withstand the cold, which
turned the ears and noses white with the frost,
and which so benumbed the feet that both the
passengers and members of the crew stumbled
rather than walked to the small craft in which
they were to leave the sinking ship.
Suffering Ones Cry Out.
Shrieks of agonized pain drowned the roar of the
inrushing water. Pandemonium reigned supreme,
but in spite of it, the women on board,
suffering more intensely than the men, were
placed in lifeboats, the male passengers and
members of the crew selecting the unprotected
rafts as their vehicle of escape.
remained on the upper deck directing his
officers and crew until every one [sic] on board
appeared to have been cared for. He ordered all
lifeboats and rafts cut away, and before he
stepped into his own boat he stood on the upper
deck a moment to see that his order was
executed. Then he ordered that his boat, the
largest on board, be cleared away. Before the
men had an opportunity to loosen the tackles,
the bottom of the boat rested on top of the
surging sea, which was [illegible] over the
hurricane deck and for [illegible] it seemed as
though the lifeboat would be dragged down,
before she could be freed from the doomed
Every hand on the boat was too cold to handle a
knife and cut the ropes, which, however, slipped
through the tackles, and set the boat adrift
just as the vessel became submerged. The
pitiable condition of the passengers and crew
was increased a hundredfold the moment they had
launched their boats. Every wave sent its dash
of spray over the boats and their contents.
Soon a thin coating of ice enveloped every one.
Those who were fully clothed suffered from
frozen faces and numbed feet, but there were
many who had on only their night clothes.
One Man Kills Himself.
One man in the captain's boat, although dressed
warmer than many others, was suddenly driven
insane by his intense suffering. He pulled a big
clasp knife from his pocket and gashed his
throat. On one stayed his hand, and again he
plunged his knife into his throat. Those who sat
near him either were too dazed to interfere or
looked up the act of self-destruction as
justified. The man's body fell to the bottom of
the boat, where it remained unheeded.
Fishers Point, the nearest point of landing, was
not quite five miles to the westward of the
point where the steamer went down, and every
boat immediately headed for that place. But the
boats were heavy, and the men at the oars were
weak. A fifty-mile gale blew on their backs as
the men strained at the ice-covered oars in a
hopeless endeavor to overcome the handicap
against which they were struggle in. The boats
and rafts soon became separated, and the only
details of the terrible disaster which could be
learned here were given when
boat came ashore. Not a man on board was able to
walk. Their feet were frozen so badly that the
life-savers [sic] carried the survivors bodily
to the life-saving station.
Ship's Captain Overcome.
was so overcome by the enormity of the disaster
that for a time he was unable to give a lucid
account of what had happened after the ship had
gone down. Shortly after his arrival here the
captain said that he had on board his ship
between 150 and 200 passengers and a crew of 50.
Later he said there were between fifty and
seventy-five passengers on board the steamer
when the vessel went down. The latter figure,
however, is far below the estimate made by the
officials of the Joy Line at Providence, who
estimated that the number of passengers were not
less than 150. The exact number of passengers
was given in a list which was handed the purser
just before the Larchmont started on her
fateful journey, but it is believed that it was
lost when the ship went down.
said that had his crew been able to make
progress against the northwest gale, they would
have landed at Fishers Island between 12 and 1
o'clock. The wind, however, was too strong to be
overcome, and there was nothing left for the
suffering seamen but turn around and head for
Block Island, fifteen miles away. It was shortly
after 11 o'clock when the captain of the boat
cut away from the sinking steamer, and it was
not until 6:30 o'clock in the morning that it
arrived at Block Island. It seemed, the captain
said, as through the sever hours' struggle
against the elements occupied an eternity, and
not a soul in the boat expected to survive the
excruciating suffering to which they were
>> Go to
Articles transcribed by
for more information on the Larchmont Disaster and other disasters in the Historic
Newspapers Collection. The number of
newspapers on line has recently doubled - search
over 1000 different newspapers. Use this
Free trial to search for your ancestors.
Search for ancestors in
Block Island, RI among billions of names at ancestry.com. Use this
Free trial to search for your ancestors.
Rhode Island City
Free trial to search for your ancestors.